Stoke Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups
After my “sabbatical” leave thanks to some activities related to work, I’m back to doing what I love best. I love Arsenal to the extent I write about the club but I also have a job as a Process Engineer in an Oil and Gas compnay and when work calls, a brother has to answer.
In my absence, a lot hasn’t been missed as my club faltered yet again in the hands of Bayern Munich but they responded brilliantly against Sunderland at home. Vito Mannone has been getting all the plaudits for his good goalkeeping displays but Arsenal left no prisoners as they dispatched Sunderland in ruthless fashion.
Today, the Gunners take on a Stoke City side struggling for form in the Premier League and many Arsenal fans will be hopeful that their team grabs all three points to keep up the pressure on Chelsea. Stoke has been on a transition from playing pathetic football under Tony Pulis to actually playing some decent football with Mark Hughes in the helm of affairs. However, they are five points worse off were they where under the Orc and they’re just three points above relegation-threatened Sunderland.
Stoke’s form has been so appalling to the level that they have won just one of their last 10 games in the Premier League, which was a 2-1 win over this season’s surprise underachievers, Manchester United. The once reliable Asmir Begovic has let the floodgates open, conceding 26 goals in his last 14 games.
The Gunners have half an eye on Peter Crouch, a player that has scored them on seven occasions. The lanky forwards finest hour against the Gunners came when he donned the Liverpool jersey where he scored a “perfect” hat-trick
The Arsenal has to also be mindful of the fact that Stoke has conceded more fouls (360) and has picked up more cards (58 yellows and three reds) than any other team in the Premier League this season. The Britannia Stadium brings bad memories of Aaron Ramsey’s horrific leg fracture in the hands of Ryan Shawcross and funnily enough, that has been the only time the Gunners defeated Stoke in their home ground. There was the FA Cup exit of 2010, a Jonathan Walters-inspired victory in 2011, the boring 1-1 draw in 2012 and the goalless stalemate at the start of last season.
However, the Gunners can take some pride that they have the second best away record this season (amassed 26 points on their travels) and they also have the best record playing teams in the bottom half of the table with a record of 13 wins from a possible 15. In Mesut Ozil, the Gunners have one of the most creative forces in the top five European leagues as he has created 73 chances this season.
To injuries, Stoke’s January signing, Peter Odemwingie would face a late fitness test ahead of today’s home clash with Arsenal after he sustained a calf problem. Jon Walters has been ill and missed a couple of days of training this week due to illness but is expected to be available, and on-loan Manchester City striker John Guidetti is eligible once again after sitting out last weekend’s defeat at his parent club.
Robert Huth suffered a nasty knee injury in November and has been recuperating from knee surgery, successfully came through 45 minutes of a behind-closed-doors friendly on Tuesday but is not yet ready for a competitive return. On-loan Liverpool winger Oussama Assaidi (knee) remains sidelined.
At Arsenal, Meanwhile, Mesut Özil will return after hip trouble and a two-day rest for Arsenal. With Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal doubtful, Arsene Wenger might be forced to deploy Mathieu Flamini as an auxiliary left back with Bacary Sagna playing alongside Per Mertesacker, if Laurent Koscielny doesn’t recover on time. Thomas Vermaelen has finally decided to be fit but I don’t see the manager rushing him into action.
My predicted lineup would look like this,
With the Gunners playing Everton in the FA Cup while Chelsea plays in the Premier League next week, victory is paramount.
Enjoy the game wherever you are. It’s good to be back.
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